Sydney Christman Has the Floor

A conversation with our 2018 Design Challenge winner

Sydney Christman Has the Floor

Last year’s runner-up was this year’s winner of the Can I Be Your Neighbor Design Challenge for Affordable Housing and a $2,000 scholarship from the Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines.  Here’s what Sydney Christman of Ankeny High School had to say about what helped her win, future plans and how she now views housing as a result of the experience.

Q: Before we get to the competition, tell us a little about your family and things you enjoy.

A: I have two younger sisters and my dad, Mike, is a business computer software consultant and my mom, Tina, is a secretary at Ankeny Centennial. We also have an Australian Shepherd named Coda, as in the musical term Coda. I am active in sports and music and had my first solo in Show Choir this year. I’ve also always loved looking at houses. In fact, one year my friends and I went around to look at Christmas lights and after while we were just driving around in the snow looking at houses – that didn’t even have lights!

Q: How did you become interested in building design – were you good in art? 

A: I am absolutely not good at art and have never been good at drawing, which is why I’m not choosing the architectural path in college. However, I am creative and I know how to make technology work to bring ideas to life. I discovered this when I got to use a software program called ‘Chief Architect’ which is the same program we used for our Design Challenge projects.

Q: You were runner-up last year before winning this year. What motivated you to compete again?

A: I really learned a lot between the two years and wanted to apply new skills and ideas, which is more fun when there is a purpose like in this case an affordable home for a family. I also had the benefit of teachers, Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Vail, who encouraged me. Mr. Vail is now retired but has been a great influence in my life. He was my sophomore computer design teacher and knew of my passion for architecture and design and after the class was over I continued to work on designs and showed my portfolio to him. He asked if he could share my work with someone at Wood Harbor Kitchen and Bath and of course I said yes. The next day Mr. Vail came back with the good news that they were willing to provide me a job shadow experience, like a summer internship, even thought I was just 16. I got to see all aspects, from the studio and configurations to the materials and actual project sites.

Q: What did you learn about housing and the need for housing that is affordable from this competition?

A: I live in Ankeny which is a community that is clearly growing. While I know there are some apartment complexes under construction, I wonder if people who work here can afford to live here. For example, I know there are a lot of teachers who have jobs here but don’t live in Ankeny.  One thing I found myself doing after my first Design Challenge competition is looking at houses not just as structures but more so about who might be able to live in them. So a big brick home versus a smaller house or a complex where people can rent instead of own. Clearly every community should have housing to fit all the incomes of the people who want to live there.

Q: What are your future plans and anything else you’d like to add?

A: As much as I enjoy homes, my future focus is on the commercial side. I really like large buildings and major developments.  I will be going to college this fall at Iowa State and plan to go into Construction Engineering with a goal of being a project manager for commercial buildings.  And as far as anything else, I want to thank ASK Studio and the Housing Trust Fund for having this competition and a BIG thank you to Mr. Knoup from The Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines for the $2,000 scholarship, for coming to the classes to give feedback, being a judge and encouraging me to follow up when it’s time for me to do some networking in the industry.

And finally, I know this competition has been going on for six years and I hope it continues. It’s important not just for the opportunity to compete for money but to raise awareness for why we need the right mix of housing, especially housing that is affordable, in all of our communities.

Click here to read more about this year's Can I Be Your Neighbor Design Challenge competition.